John Hutton has warned the Labour party against turning in on itself by moving to the left.
In an interview with the Politics Show, he said "I don't believe that a return to old fashioned left-wing policies is going to be relevant or would, would be the right solution facing us today. I think we've got to remain New Labour."
And the Work and Pensions Secretary launched an impassioned defence of the New Labour project, and appeared to rebuke his Cabinet colleague Peter Hain for criticising 'grotesque' City pay rises. He said: "I don¿t think we can go back to a period of time when we impose sort of restrictions on pay through legislation... we've got to raise the floor, not lower the ceiling."
A Brown premiership?
John Hutton also insisted that that Gordon Brown would not move to the left if he became leader.
When challenged about whether Gordon Brown might be tempted to direct the party back towards appealing to Labour's core vote, he said "I think Gordon, and if you look at Gordon's record in government and in opposition, I think he's very much on the, on the New Labour side of the argument and I think he is aware of the challenges that we face and is determined that Labour should be the party of ideas, that is able to look outwards, not inwards, to engage the public with debate about the future of our country, and to do it in a way that is in touch with the modern world and the modern economy."
Mr Hutton has been widely quoted as one of the Chancellor's sharpest internal critics, but on the Politics Show he accepted that Mr Brown was very likely to be the new leader and said he would be a "very impressive Leader of the Party and a very, very effective Prime Minister".
But he refused to be drawn on whether someone might stand against him.
Government sharing information
Mr Hutton was also asked about the news that the government is considering sharing information between government departments, currently banned under data protection legislation.
He argued that some relaxation of the laws would make sense, but it would only be done after public consultation.
Challenged that such a move threatened civil liberties and had echoes of George Orwell's 'big brother', Mr Hutton said "The government already stores vast amounts of data about individual citizens but actually doesn't share it terribly intelligently across various government agencies...
"Now, we can improve the quality of public services if we are prepared to share data more intelligently, and maybe the best way to do this, Jon, is to ask the public themselves whether they want information to be used in this more intelligent way, and I think the public are mature and grown up about this, they want public services to be efficient and effective."
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The Politics Show Sunday 14 January 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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